World Cup of Food #1: Qatari kabsa

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World Cup of Food

It was a weird day to start this project. Qatar kicked off the World Cup—Qatar, where being gay is illegal and potentially punishable by death. Here in the US, today is the trans day of remembrance; the night before, some mouthbreather in Colorado shot up and killed a bunch of people at a gay bar. These abhorrences are not unconnected.

So yeah, weird day.

But the World Cup is so compromised that I knew it wouldn’t be anything else (John Amaechi says it best, perhaps.)

Despite everything, it seemed appropriate to start my food odyssey with Qatar, but my research suggested there’s not a lot of local food in the Bay Area. There’s a lot of Arabic cuisine, much more than a few years ago and—at least to my tastes—better, too. I live near Beit Rima, a lovely Lebanese spot that opened before the pandemic and made it through; a new mezze place opened just a few blocks away. But not a lot of Qatari food.

So I asked a friend who is in the know, and she recommended Yemen Kitchen, a little hole in the wall in the Tenderloin: they serve kabsa, also known as machboos, a traditional peninsula dish that blends spices, vegetables, rice and meat. This place’s kabsa was very close to the Qatari version, she said, although can be on the dry side. So we ordered lamb kabsa, a little chicken, some falafel, some hummus, some bread. (Sunday night, we ordered takeout rather than eating in.)

And it was, broadly, great: Lamb on the bone that fell apart, fragrantly spiced but not overpowering rice, with enough texture to keep it interesting and a dusty set of flavors that I loved. The portions were huge; a single bowl of kabsa pretty much fed three of us, although I think traditionally it’s eaten as a sharing platter so I suppose that’s the point. The falafel was good, maybe the best I’ve had here—crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. The main downside was the disappointing bread, basically just a bag of pita straight from the wholesaler (I’ve noticed this happening at a few places recently.) But we’ll be eating there again.

In the meantime, I matched the amount we spent on food from Yemen Kitchen with a donation to Trans Lifeline, a volunteer-led hotline for trans people in trouble.


[Read more about the World Cup of Food.]

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Introducing my World Cup of Food (Bay Area edition) – Start here

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